Category: Real Estate

The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions-Ben Gattie,The Working Capitol

Ben Gattie, the co-founder, and CEO at The Working Capitol wanted to nurture creative work environments in his home country of Singapore. After working for a real estate developer focused on SoHo loft conversions in New York City, Ben returned to Singapore about 8 years ago and set up The Bamboo Group, a boutique real estate company specializing in the redevelopment of neighborhood shop houses. Deciding to enter a more meaningful and multifaceted industry centered around creating inspired work environments for companies big and small, Gattie co-founded The Working Capitol with his sister, Saranta.

Today the professional landscape in Singapore is changing, and it’s all thanks to places like The Working Capitol. We caught up with Ben to discuss these changes and how his work is enabling more open and flexible work environments.

Hi, Ben. What is work culture like in Singapore? Have people embraced social workspaces? 

It was quite conventional in a lot of ways until a few years ago with the mainstream emphasizing job security and working out of the central business district. Singapore has made a conscious effort to decentralize, and independent operators such as ourselves have legitimized fringe locations and social workspaces. Thankfully, Singapore is accustomed to change at an aggressive pace and is very adaptable to new things. Singapore apparently has over 60+ co-working spaces so I certainly hope this means people have embraced social workspaces! That said, in our earlier days, it was essential to educate people about what we were doing and to adopt a genuine spirit of giving before we could expect to get in return.

Does TWC aim to promote shared work culture and if so, how?

Ben Gatti

Definitely. We try to promote shared work culture across as many touch points as possible. The design of our space is research backed to promote varied types of interactions, ensuring there are different environments suited for different types of work or social engagement.

We want all our members to feel a sense of ownership of the entire building regardless if they may have signed up for a dedicated workspace. Our events and programming ensure that people come together across different points of interest, which we populate according to the verticals of arts and culture, personal and business development, health and wellness and lifestyle and entertainment.

Furthermore, our team is genuinely interested in what our members do and aims to facilitate interactions and connections whenever possible.

When TWC was being developed, was special attention paid to design? 

Yes. Design with intention is key  i.e understanding why the spaces exist and for what purpose it serves. Design is always best when it puts the member experience first and naturally weaves these human experiences into the built environment.

In your experience, what type of design promotes a better work culture, while also increasing productivity?

Specifically, in the case of The Working Capitol, the flow of one space into another, the incorporation of natural light, a lively color palette and ensuring there are different types of micro-environments suited for different types of work made accessible to everyone have been major contributors to our unique energy.

Do you believe that the physical design of a shared workspace is an essential part of the model? 

It is an essential part of the model. It directly influences not only how well we can perform operationally, but how successful we can be at creating the right energy and interactions. If the hardware is poorly designed, it makes it that much more challenging for our team and all their efforts to bring the space to life successfully, ensuring people are inspired to do their best work.

What types of members do you attract? For example are you focused on the local community or do does TWC extend themselves to digital nomads? 

Our members truly span a broad cross section. Being fortunate enough to have an international upbringing and exposure to different cultures, it was extremely important for us to champion diversity in terms of the type of industries we cater to, as well as different stages of development. We welcome everyone from solo-preneurs to large companies. That diversity can only help to provide different perspectives and learnings to local businesses in Singapore and enable people to grow in both business and personally.

On that same note, do you have corporate members or business partners? If so, why do you think that they are drawn to a place like TWC?

Our corporate members tell us the main draw has been to attract and retain the best talent. They want to provide their teams with access to inspiring spaces, access to amenities and opportunities to engage with other members and companies.

CHECK OUT SOCIALWORKPLACES.COM UPCOMING EVENTS

“Many people who came to work at Starbucks discovered that the coworking environment was a much better solution”-Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor runs both Creative Blueprint and Foundery in the vibrant city of Toronto, Canada. The newly renovated 15,000 sq ft community hub is an accessible venue run by Ashley and her business partner, Jake Koseleci, who also owns the property and leases space to Creative Blueprint and Foundery, in addition to a Starbucks.

Established in 2006, Creative Blueprint is a pioneer and leader in Toronto’s arts and coworking communities. Creative Blueprint provides studios, services and support for artists and entrepreneurs. The CB Studios in downtown Toronto are home to practicing visual artists, designers, makers and creative entrepreneurs.

We caught up with Ashley to talk about what it was like to partner with Starbucks and how coffee culture can help coworking spaces grow.

Hi, Ashley. Can you please tell us a bit about the current state of Foundery and Creative Blueprint?

Established in 2010, Foundery currently operates two Coworking and Event Spaces within The Foundery Buildings. Foundery is one of Toronto’s first coworking spaces and we are home to a diverse and vibrant community of passionate, independent freelancers and artists. Foundery provides 2 unique shared coworking environments in addition to private offices and meeting rooms.

In the new year, we are planning to launch an exchange program with our newest Creative Blueprint location in Seattle, Washington (in partnership with Office Nomads).

Why did you decide to partner with Starbucks rather than opening your own coffee shop? 

My original plans for a coworking space included art studios, as well as an art gallery and cafe. The businesses are all complimentary and they support each other. The Foundery Buildings were the first venue where we could open all of these elements under one roof. Yet, we had an entire building to renovate and a mortgage to cover, so we decided that it would be a good idea to partner with an established anchor tenant that we didn’t feel bad about charging market rental rates.

Ashley Proctor

Ashley Proctor

At the time when we bought the building, there was construction on the street and we needed to increase foot traffic. Also, coworking was not as popular as it is today and many people were still unfamiliar with the concept. Thus, the cafe gave people a reason to come by and check out the newly renovated building.

Do you feel that this partnership brought Foundery more opportunity?

Yes. Overall, it’s really events, coffee and casual opportunities that make connections and what helped to introduce the community to our space and to the coworking movement.

It has been a great way to find and to introduce people who need a community to the coworking concept. The partnership also offers a secure stream of patrons for the cafe and a secure revenue stream for the building. It also works out well when we need breakfast or coffee for our in-house workshops and events!

What are some of the specific benefits of having a partnership with Starbucks and what does it bring to the tenants and to the space owners?

Our members love coffee. We drink coffee all day and we also like snacks. Since we have our own desks next door, we don’t take up precious real-estate in Starbucks.

As a coworking space operator, I also visit the cafe to tell those people who are working on laptops that there is a better option that’s right next door. I’ve actually invited many cafe customers in for a trial day at Foundery and that worked out well both for Starbucks and for us.

Does having a partnership outside of the space provide the ability to impact the greater community on the whole as you have a wider reach?

Our reach was initially wider with Starbucks as a tenant, but now we have since established our location and our own community. Today, our events and members attract new visitors, like the CB Gallery, which is open to the public during exhibitions and we also participate in many city-wide initiatives that open our doors to the community.

Have you found that there could be a potential risk that your members would want to work in Starbucks, rather than your space?

Quite the opposite. Many people who came to work at the cafe discovered Foundery and decided that the coworking environment was a much better solution. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy going out for coffee, but I’d rather work from the Foundery rooftop patio or in my studio with friends. I’m so much more efficient and productive in a coworking space than I could be in any cafe.

What would convince you to have your own cafe? 

Now that we have established the model at this location, we’d like to see another service provider operating in the space. We are actually in the process of replacing the Starbucks with an independent operator that is more in line with our vision and mission for the space and community.

As we are a building full of independent artists and entrepreneurs, so it would be nice to see our peers using the space. Yet, we are taking our time in looking for the right cafe partner or collaborator who can provide amazing coffee, healthy food options and catering options for our members and many events.

“Romania has the highest GDP growth in Europe and coworking has a lot of potential here”- Dragos Roua, ConnectHub (Romania)

In 2012, Dragos Roua launched an event called Open Connect. Using Starbucks as a platform, Dragos transformed the coffee shop into an environment that nurtured connection, where individuals could communicate and give feedback to one another. According to Dragos, this type of environment was missing in Romania, and this was an attempt to change the scene.

Yet, even though the coworking structure was pretty much non-existent at the time, a lot of people showed up, leading to 4 more years of meet ups and eventually in 2014, Connect Hub was born. We caught up with Dragos to learn more about Romania’s coworking growth.

Hi, Dragos. Please tell us a bit more about the story of the initial meet up leading to the birth of Connect Hub.

When I launched the first event in 2012, I wanted to create an environment where people would easily give feedback to each other, something which was lacking at that time in the online scene and, to some extent, still is. To my surprise, a bunch of people showed up, and over the last 4 years, a community of more than 5000 people grew around the event.

In addition to a community, a lot of business started to happen between them, from partnerships, clients exchange, service exchange. It was a vibrant community and in 2014 2 angel investors helped us to make Connect Hub a reality. Today, the coworking space has grown beyond the initial community, although we still have Open Connects each Thursday.

What are some of your other projects you are working on connected to the space?

I have written a book, titled: “Being A Digital Nomad“, which tells the story of Open Connect.

How familiar are people with coworking spaces in Romania? 

Connect Hub was actually the third coworking space in Bucharest to open and since 2014 at least 10 more have opened.

Did people embrace the concept ? Or were there some challenges in the beginning? 

I would say the concept was very well received. The first hub was opened in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2012 that things really picked up, so it took some time.

Dragos Roua, Connect Hub

Dragos Roua, Connect Hub

What kind of community do you foster?

We are a generalist hub. Everybody who has a business can come to work and enjoy the community. We have e-commerce consultants, public speaking coaches, raw vegan fast food owners, programmers, web designers, marketers, professional photographers.

Would you say that Connect Hub played a role in changing people’s opinions about coworking in the region?

Coworking was already a reality when Connect Hub launched. Our presence may have been accelerated the adoption of the phenomenon and also contributed to the launch of other, more specialized, hubs.

Are there more spaces popping up and do you yourself collaborate with them? 

Yes, we have many hubs opening. Although because of the hype, the concept was somehow diluted. For example, if you have some office space to rent, then it is understood as being cool to name yourself a “hub”. But, sometimes we do collaborate with other coworking spaces.

If so, what are some of your projects that involve connecting the Romanian community with the greater European one?

There is a Romanian Association of Coworking Spaces in the works right now, and Connect Hub is one of the co-founders of that association. Things are moving a bit slow at the moment, but eventually, we’ll get there.

Are there any specific struggles in Romania, economically and socially that coworking can help to alleviate? Can you give some examples, if so? 

As a matter of fact, Romania had the highest GDP growth in Europe, which was at 5% in 2016 and it’s expected to keep that position in 2017 as well, with a 3.2% growth.

But, coworking is still in its nascent stages, so there is a lot of room to grow. There is potential for many wonderful things to happen, and the most important among them may be the apparition of the first real incubation / acceleration programs centered around the reality of Romanian economy and culture.

Is there an increasing freelance population in Romania? If so, why do you think that is and do you think it is positive?

Yes, freelancing is becoming quite popular. While I salute the trend, I don’t see it necessarily as a good thing, because I am more interested in the next level of freelancing, which is entrepreneurship. We’re still experiencing a lot of short-comings in this area, as freelancing is not very conducive to economic growth in the long term in the way that entrepreneurship can be.

Currently, the mindset is still frozen, and that is something that has to change in the coming years.

Has coworking in Romania helped other business sectors improve/become more innovative, such as real estate?

Not necessarily real estate, but for consultants, it has been an interesting and innovative way to expand their business.

 

“We propose the off peak environment of beautiful restaurants for coworking”-Preston Pesek, Spacious NYC

Finding a place to work in a major metropolis like New York City can be a challenge and an expensive one at that. At first glance, options may seem limited, but if you look a little closer, maybe the perfect place to work was there all along. Preston Pesek, co-founder of Spacious Coworking, saw past property challenges and found that there was actually plenty of space, depending on how you look at it.

Setting up coworking spaces the City’s restaurants during the day, Spacious takes a novel approach to how we get the most out of urban landscapes. Realizing that many of these top eateries are pretty much empty until 5PM, until the after work rush, Spacious aims to combine business and pleasure.

Hi, Preston. What inspired you to start Spacious?

I have a background in commercial real estate. It was through this lens that I began to realize that beautifully furnished, street-level retail space, which often stays closed until 5:00pm or later, is actually some of the highest value property that has been programmed the least efficiently.

With the rise of an independent workforce, in the context of a technological culture where people can stay productive and connected from anywhere, the opportunity to tap into the potential of these under-used spaces quickly became obvious.

Does the coworking element offer any specific benefits to the restaurants, such as financial incentives?

Not only do we share our profits with our restaurant partners, but they also benefit from greater visibility through our digital marketing efforts. In addition to more exposure, the restaurants can also serve food and drinks to our members during the day as well if they want. In most cases, our partners are very excited about the opportunity to serve small plates during the day, and our members love it too.

How long do you occupy each restaurant? And, does the offer change after a certain time, or do you have a set network of restaurants ?

We open at 9:00am, and for anyone who lingers after the restaurant opens, can simply choose to stay and order from the menu, or from the bar. Most of our restaurant partners like to have a few early customers to jumpstart the evening.

When we add a new partner, we expect that it remains in the network through the remainder of the restaurant partner’s lease. The network grows over time, so we will be continually adding new locations, resulting in increasing network coverage in each city where we operate.

Coworking communities rely on their hosts to help members integrate and build community. Since your hosts aren’t with the coworkers for an extended period of time, is it harder for them to connect with members?

On the contrary, the hosts who greet and  help to check-in our members are dedicated Spacious employees, so they are there every day. They get to know our members quite well, and as they are with them throughout the day, they act as a friendly concierge and reception for both our members and their guests. All of our hosts know almost everyone by name, creating a friendly and hospitable experience.

Are these hosts already experienced coworkers or are they also new to the concept?

The Spacious hosts are a diverse mix of independent freelancers, theater and film actors, designers, etc. who understand the need for an affordable place to meet and work that also acts as a social space. Some of them are new to Spacious, of course (because we are new), but everyone already has previous knowledge and experience with coworking.

Who are your typical members? What are their professions? coworking in restaurants

We have a diverse membership. We have independent designers, makers, and developers, as well as members of small to startup teams. We even have employees coming from larger organizations who have a “work from anywhere” corporate policy, who enjoy the fact that Spacious offers an experience that is more hospitable than the typical office.

Do they work from home, or are they also experienced coworkers?

Many of our members have also worked out of other coworking communities before joining us. The value of what we can offer, because of our unique business model, matched with high-touch quality experience, is something that sets us apart from many others in the space. Not many other coworking spaces can say that they are connected to a Michelin star kitchen.

What are some of the things that professionals in NYC need but doesn’t have access to through the established coworking networks?

Objectively, we solve the problem of finding a reliable network of places to host face-to-face meetings. While we don’t offer a permanent workstation where you can leave your computer overnight, we do offer a network of places where you can meet with others in a space suitable for any client, colleague, or friend. At Spacious you can choose to stay quietly productive at a table of your own, or engage in collaborative conversations in a space that is designed for social interaction.

Of course, you can also choose to stay quietly productive at a table of your own, or engage in collaborative conversations as we create an atmosphere designed for social interaction.

NYC has a lot of coworking spaces already, what did it take for you to realize a concept that would stand out and ultimately thrive amongst the competition?

The business model we’ve designed allows us to offer something truly special that few others can. We also offer this at a price that is very hard to beat. The Spacious network will show you where the best spaces in any city are located, and these spaces are picked to be both beautiful by day, and also by night when they become top tier restaurant venues. Because we carefully curate our space partners, you can rely on Spacious to give you insight into “where to be” in any city. We hope to become an insider’s guide to the best spaces in cities all over the world.

How have people reacted to the Spacious concept so far? And, do you have any plans to start using other non-traditional spaces in the future?

Our members love it. It’s something very unique, but it also allows our members to feel that they are at home, and are proud to tell others about where they work. It’s a kind of “life hack” that is also an exciting movement.

As our membership grows, we’re going to want to offer 24/7 access to the Spacious network. This move will require that we find other spaces, and there are plenty of those to be found if you have the right kind of perspective. To us, every city looks very spacious!

Source:

Coworking India Survey and Data 2016

As a global movement, Coworking has taken roots in India the last years.coworkin-co

A couple of hundreds of coworking spaces are now in operation in India.

Mentioning coworking space means we don’t take into account, here, basic shared spaces environments without services and (semi-)open access. Well workspaces associated with an identity and a community, mainly dedicated to digital workers of any kinds.

About one third took part in the Coworking India Survey 2016 produced by SocialWorkplaces.com prior to the Coworking India conference, on September 9-10th, 2016. Here are some key data disclosed during the event which gathered close to 120 coworking operators and pundits from the whole country.

Bigger on average in size, though still limited in number

So far, there is less coworking spaces in India than coworking spaces operating in the London area alone.size-space-cwindia

That said, though, on average, coworking spaces operating in India seemed wider in space than the average noticed in Europe, for instance. More than one third of the interviewed coworking spaces manage a facility more than 1.000 m2 wide.

Likewise, the average size of coworking tenants each coworking deals with seems to be wider than the average observed in Europe, although the number of operating coworking spaces is much higher over there.  According to the data, one third of the surveyed coworking spaces caters between 100 and 200 members at least.

cw-india-members

Acceleration and startup programs often provided

India wants to put itself as a startup nation.

No surprise that a big deal of the coworking spaces who replied to the survey are targeting startups and digital entrepreneurs. So, it is not amazing that more than 50% of the interviewed spaces described not only themselves as coworking spaces but also as Incubation/Acceleration program providers or sometimes TechHubs.

vineelContentwise, the community building activity is definitily as critical for the Indian coworking scene as it is elsewhere, show the data collected for the Survey. More than 2/3 of the Indian coworking spaces organize in house events at least once a week.

The Coworking industry in India seems for sure ready to take off confirmed attendees at the first Coworking India conference.

Download more facts & data from the Coworking India 2016 Survey providing your information here below.

Recap of the Coworking India 2016 conference (Storify)

“In Real Estate, being able to deal with emotions and personal feelings is critical”-Katie Lance

An expert in marketing in branding for the last 15 years, Katie Lance currently explores the impact of social media can have when building a more transparent company culture. As a consultant, Katie helps companies utilize social media on a myriad of levels, from engaging with employees, to assisting clients and users.

We spoke with Katie about the potential impact “smart” social media can have on business today, and how it can carve out space for more human engagement in the workplace.

Your specialty is social media. How do you see the role of social media in workplace culture today?

It’s important for companies to understand that their social media presence isn’t just what is posted via their corporate social media directors. Employees have, in many ways, just a big of a voice and can be some of the biggest brand ambassadors.

How do you think that the real estate industry will utilize social media to improve the way that they interact with customers, etc.?

For many people, buying and selling a home is an intensely personal and emotional experience, and I can think of no better industry than real estate to use social media to celebrate those moments and connect with their clients on a personal level. The real estate industry has a unique opportunity to use social media to keep in touch with their clients, as well as an opportunity to share what it feels like to work with them and what their communities are all about.

Can you tell us a bit about these changes that you see taking place in the real estate industry from this experience?

I think we are getting a bit away from all of the “shiny objects” that overshadowed the industry a few years back. As technology gets better and better, I see opportunities that help agents to tell their story and build their brand. I particularly see opportunities with

I particularly see opportunities with live video like Facebook Live, Snapchat and Periscope, which allow agents to create content quickly and allow consumers to ask questions and interact in real time. I see this as a huge opportunity for agents to build trust and build their business.

What challenges are ahead for office providers, coworking space etc.?

I do see more companies letting their employees work remotely and offering more flexible work schedules. Ultimately it comes down to trust; trust in the employees that they know how they work best, whether it’s in an office, at a coffee shop or at a home office. I think many companies still fear not having an office space because they feel their culture will be affected.

Katie Lance social media

Katie Lance

I personally run a virtual company with a relatively small virtual team for nearly four years and I can tell you first-hand that you don’t need to be all in the same room to build culture. We create culture through our Skype calls, our Voxer voice messages, our iPhones, and the various other ways that we keep in touch and on task through technology tools.

How do you imagine the role of the office in the future? Will will be all being working remotely in due time?

The workplace has changed dramatically in the last few years in part because of technology and in part because how so many of us have previously worked has also changed. For many of us, we no longer need to be in the same building at the same time of day  to get a job done. I don’t think offices will ever disappear forever but I think we will only continue to see more and more people working remotely.

“Just like so many other industries, Real Estate will be revolutionized by digital and coworking” – Mischa Schlemmer

Architect and economist, Mischa Schlemmer, was introduced to coworking while she was working on her Masters Degree. The focus of Mischa’s research was economic development of creative clusters at the LSE, which stayed with her as she moved on to ultimately work on building up Google’s Paris office.

Since then, Mischa has become a notable expert on the role of technology in today’s workplace, taking into account the rise of remote workers, globalization and a need for a better work/life balance. Currently, she is focused on helping conscious community leaders attract, engage and maintain optimal creativity and collaboration through emotional intelligence, peak performance and flow state.

Hi, Mischa. Can you please tell us about the role coworking has played throughout your career?

When I was building Google’s office in Paris, I reflected on their approach to building their own private creative cluster, aka Googleplex. Complete with all the perks and amenities to attract, engage and retain the best and brightest “smart creatives” as CEO Erick Schmit calls them, I recognized a lot of similarities between these creative clusters and the overall coworking philosophy and practices. I also noticed that Google was drawing on the same creative engagement and community building approaches that I had originally experienced in my “studio” shared workspace while in architecture school.

I began talking to my real-estate development colleagues and friends about coworking as it became a fast evolving trend, acting as a catalyst for more flexible relationships between office space operators and workers. This led me to become fascinated by the intersection of coworking’s bottom up approach, user generated solutions that compliment and contrast with the corporate top-down model, as well as hybrid models for nurturing creativity and collaboration.

As you are interested in how globalization influences workplaces, what are some of the ways that a global workforce has inspired the future of work movement?

With the introduction of more open communication channels, producers (entrepreneurs) who need support to bring their product or service to market can now easily connect to investors and venture capital who seek to invest their gains back into the market, which is ultimately driving the “start up” business model.

For the global workforce, there is a greater need for emotional intelligence and intercultural awareness, as well as harboring more sensitivity and diplomacy as a way to understand the needs, wants and expectations of diverse consumers, workers, investors, and governments around the world.

How has coworking, as a global movement, influenced real estate?

In regards to commercial office real estate, the relationship between landlords and tenants has changed. The shift towards “startup” business culture means that companies are created to test market demands, and they are subsequently not willing to carry the financial or operational risk as well as the demand for long-term leases.

The financial crisis led to tightening up of overhead budgets across the corporate sector and today an increasing amount of companies are exploring more flexible workspace agreements and provisions for their employees to attract, retain and engage talent/workers. Overall, contemporary businesses need flexibility and outsourced pay-as-you-go services and support.

Mischa Schlemmer

Mischa Schlemmer

The coworking model translated into space as a service model is highly flexible and customizable. In the past, landlords contracted with a company paid the end user to show up every day to occupy the workstation, but now the coworking model is more similar to a hotel where the space operator sells space as a service to end users who have specific expectations and demands. Developers, brokerages, and landlords need to understand this service and ultimately design for and accommodate the expanding diversity of needs and expectations of end users.

What are the challenges that real estate still faces today?

The biggest challenges faced by the real-estate sector today is keeping up and staying ahead of the radical changes that are constantly challenging longstanding expensive and heavily administrative traditional processes associated with the industry. The real estate sector is perhaps the last to be overhauled by the digital revolution due to the scale and permanence of the product. But, real estate will be revolutionized just like so many other industries, from music, health, financial, education, public service, agriculture, etc.

What can more corporate enterprises do to actually make room for innovation? 

Listen! Listen! Listen! Build trusting open engaged communication within their communities and ask the community members (investors, leaders, workers, consumers, partners, etc) what they want and need. Also, make sure to ask exactly how they want to help contribute to the community. Set up clear agreements and buy-in about the vision and value of the community identity or brand. Use internal CRM (contact relationship management) to track and support each community member’s growth and evolution. Empower community members to participate and serve the community in a way that feels generative for them.

What would be the best steps to take to create an original model that actually fits your community?

Make it a priority and co-create a plan that enables regular practice and engagement.

In what ways can corporate companies use coworking values in a genuine way? 

Focus on each community member as a cherished and special talent worth getting to know by unlocking their inner power of networks, creativity, and collaborative synergies.  Create programming and personalized support to help each community member explore the edges of their comfort zone in a safe and supportive environment.  Let go of control and focus on trust and empowerment.

What can the coworking industry do to maintain their values while also benefitting from financial partnerships with corporations? 

Use the emotional intelligence skills of coworking operators to make sure you have connected and clear values while you build a vision of the community identity/ brand. Make sure you also take the time to co-create a mutually beneficial relationship agreement with a practice plan of how to grow the relationship of the partnership.

Finally, how can these workspace models of the future influence the way that we build and organize our cities? (In the way that we promote better living for all)

Workplaces are becoming a place that you choose to go to because it helps you access the full potential of your mind, body, and imagination. This fundamental shift in the way we relate work to salary slavery s towards a more supportive environment that caters to self-actualization of optimized unique individuals will have a profound impact on city design. For example, more specialized neighborhood creative clusters with clear communication of common values and vision to attract like-minded neighbors, and business.

We will see an increase in coworking and coliving models, as well as more organized opportunities to volunteer time and energy towards purposeful service that will be integrated into city life.

“People come to colive for various reasons, but they stay for the community”-Stephanie Cornell, Old Oak Collective

In 2010, Reza Merchant was in his last year of university, having a hard time finding an affordable place to live that wasn’t in shambles. Over the years, Merchant and his team started to see more and more issues within the housing market and a lack of supply for a growing demand.

We caught up with Stephanie from the Old Oak Collective, the latest member to join London’s coliving movement, to learn more about what direction coliving is moving and what this concept will bring to professionals living in urban areas.

Hi Stephanie, Can you please tell us about the Old Oak development process and what we can expect from this coliving concept?

We started to purchase derelict buildings and refurbishing them, which is when The Collective brand was created. We identified a gap in the market for high-quality housing for young professionals, who crave a hassle-free way of living, hence our all-inclusive service offering. For example, a single monthly bill covers rent, council tax, all utility bills, room clean, linen change, 24/7 security, and wi-fi. This convenience element is designed to give time-poor professionals more free time to pursue their passions/hobbies or simply to enjoy some more free time.

During this time we gathered feedback from members and conducted surveys which reinforced what we believed; namely that increasingly our generation are more willing to invest in experiences over material possessions, and to share these experiences with a close community of like-minded individuals.

How did the design play a role in the process?

Refurbishing existing buildings had prevented us from providing the communal space needed to facilitate these shared experiences and interactions, which became a priority when looking for space to build our first purpose built co-living building.

When we bought the site in Old Oak we were excited by the opportunity to deliver a wealth of communal space and amenities, as it is 12,000 sq ft in total!

Can coliving provide a real solution to rising real estate prices in London?

It’s an answer to both the increasing rental prices, which are alienating the workers who are the lifeblood of London’s economy. Coliving is also a solution that could cater to the changing lifestyle trends of our generation, who’s ambitions and expectations are very different to that of previous generations, and to whom the current rental market simply doesn’t cater to.

 How does the Collective Old Oak specifically help to meet contemporary needs?

At The Collective Old Oak we are offering all-inclusive bill and access to various amenities, including a gym, spa, and rooftop terrace. And of course, you are also gaining access to a ready- made community of people in similar stages of their life journey to you, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.You are not just renting a bed or a room; you’re buying into a lifestyle.

What has been the initial response to coliving in your experience?

It’s been so exciting to see them bring the space to life and take ownership of creating the sense of community, alongside our Community Managers.

Community library at Old Oak

Community library at Old Oak

Where there has been the occasional negative comment, it’s inevitably come from people who haven’t visited Old Oak and who don’t understand the concept of co-living.

From your experience, what are people looking for when they decide to colive? 

From what we’ve seen over the past couple of months is that people move in for various different reasons, whether it’s a bad experience renting in a shared apartment, or for the ease of the viewing and booking process for someone coming from abroad. Yet, once people have moved in, the reason they fall in love and ultimately stay, is because of the community.

Do you also offer workspaces such as a coworking area, etc.?

Yes. On the ground floor we have a large hot-desking area, designed to feel like a lounge area, where people can take their laptops, sit in one of the armchairs and work remotely. During the day it will also serve as a coffee shop type environment, transforming into a bar in the evening for more informal meetings or social gatherings.

There is also a separate coworking space on the first floor, which is targeted at local creative and ambitious businesses and entrepreneurs. Again, the same emphasis is placed on community, convenience, and quality, making the space an attractive place to work from a cost perspective, as well as lifestyle.

Have you found that people who chose to stay at Old Oak achieve a sense of work-life balance?

It’s about giving people the choice to work from home if they want to, as the younger generation are moving away from the tradition 9-5 jobs and are able to work from anywhere with a fast internet connection. While a lot of our members will want to go into their offices to get a degree of physical separation between their personal and professional lives, many will enjoy the flexibility of being able to work from home. It is also important to create a variety of inspiring spaces that make room for creativity and productivity, so that when they do choose to work from home, they have enough options so that it doesn’t feel like they are just working from bed.

As we are exploring models of work in the new economy, we would like to hear the opinion/experiences of people who are actively engaging in these models. Would you say that coliving is an obvious transition from more traditional coworking?

I think there are definitely many parallels that can be drawn between the two – as I mentioned earlier the same emphasis on community, convenience and quality is placed on both, to cater to co-livers and coworkers demands. Both have the same start-up, social mentality at their core.

In terms of coliving and coworking do you think the marriage of these two concepts could risk blurring the lines between work/life balance? 

I think that more and more, our generation are pursuing their passions, following their dreams. So actually working long hours and always being “on” isn’t necessarily a chore, but a source of enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Of course, it can be a risk though and it’s incredibly important to strike a healthy balance, which is why our programme of events encourages people to get away from their desks and join a yoga lesson, inspiring talk, film night, book club or the regular free rooftop BBQ and drinks.

How could a coliving space help enable people to really embrace the sharing/new economy, through events, workshops, etc.

We actually have a very active Facebook page for our Old Oak community, which members use for everything from reporting a maintenance issue to sharing events with each other. A common theme that we’ve seen emerging is people using it to share the cost of, for example, buying their groceries. We have one member, Tracy, who regularly cooks amazing meals in large batches, which she then offers to others as dinner portions, at a very low price. It’s a win win for everyone!

The office moves towards a clubhouse

The office moves towards a ‘clubhouse’, a space which acts as a hub for soaking up the company DNA”, Chris van Houdt, PROOFF Design

When we imagine the future of work a lot of things come to mind: Smart cities, co-living spaces, even “officeless” workspaces”. Adopting similar ideas that came from movements like Bauhaus, architecture in the workplace aims to gain a deeper understanding of society and technology’s relationship to design.

To find out more about those designers that are influencing the way we imagine the future workplace, we reached out to PROOFF, a Dutch agency that “provides solutions for the new paradigm of work”. We spoke to Chris van Houdt about the exploration of activity based working by developing furniture concepts.

Hi, Chris. Why is it important for design to incorporate variety into its practice, and what does it bring to the overall result?

Working with different design studios means that we can really focus each designer’s own unique qualities and skills, as well as their specific field of research. Having one designer to create the whole collection wouldn’t generate the same outcome, as each one brings something else to the table. Together, we have created a collection of 10 furniture solutions, each product representing specific needs of the workspace.

Your designs are “intimate” but made for “public space” can you tell us a bit more about how that works? 

It’s important to carefully research the current and future needs of the workspace, translating these into furniture concepts, carefully creating prototypes, fine-tuning and finally getting the products ready for production by our selection of highly skilled craftsmen. In our case, the products are each designed with a specific solution in mind. Making life and work easier whilst boosting productivity, wellbeing and innovation in the office.

As we are looking to explore the role of design in the workplace, how do you see this playing out?

When you look at the shift towards open plan offices, started some years ago, the ambition that companies and interior designers once had (having the workforce all in one big open space will make them collaborate more and have the company be more productive, plus reducing furniture costs because of sharing workspaces) is, in most cases, not being achieved.

Staff often experience the open plan office as chaotic, not being able to focus or have a private conversation. In short, workspace design, doesn’t accommodate different styles of working and the needs of staff. Carefully designed furniture and workspaces can combat that and also play a big role in workspace wellbeing.

What is your take on the contemporary design often found in office space today? 

Today, the role of architects and (furniture) designers is really about gathering information about the workspace they are designing for. Transforming these details into a workspace and furniture that gets the best out of its users. Amplifying the productive, innovative and collaborative atmosphere at the office. Architects and designers are continuously trying to find a balance between what they envision and their client needs.

In your opinion, what types of design works best with the needs of contemporary workers? 

We see the office moving more towards a ‘’clubhouse’’, a space which acts as a hub for soaking up the company DNA. A home-base like structure, where staff can come in and out like a beehive. Today’s workers are looking for a workspace that lets them choose how they can work best, mentally and physically. They want to pick and choose their favorite spot to do focused work, make a phone call, have a private chat and collaborate with their team. This flexibility and ‘’keep moving’’ strategy enables staff and thus businesses grow.

Workspace design needs to facilitate this and the design of the workspace needs to strengthen the company DNA, think colour, material, structure based. This is where architects, interior designers, and workspace consultants play a pivotal role, as they are able to research, strategize and envision a workspace that works best for each client and their staff. And this is where furniture design comes into play. Their furniture solutions chosen need to amplify the strategy the workspace creator has in mind.